2010 Honda Classic: Saturday Morning Report

Weekend Update for the Honda Classic

By Andy Reistetter, 3/5/09

Featured Columnist Andy Reistetter is on site at the Honda Classic this week.

CLICK HERE for the 15-Minute Video Presentation of the Script Below.

Welcome to the Saturday Morning Report. I am Andy Reistetter and I am here at the 2010 Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Honda Classic is advertised as "18 holes of refined sport and raucous celebration." The PGA National Resort & Spa is a gorgeous resort open to public partying during the tournament week. With onsite concerts complemented by fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights the venue is true to its proclamations. For the golf fan the Honda Classic at PGA National is one of the most fun stops on the PGA Tour. This is the 38th playing of the Honda Classic which dates back to the 1972 Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic where Tom Weiskopf beat Hall of Famer Jack Nicklaus by a stroke for perhaps the only time in his career. Kenny G orchestrated the start of the party this week with his Wednesday Kenny G Gold Pro-Am. This year he played with the legendary Jack Nicklaus, Dan Marino, and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees of the marching on New Orleans Saints. One observer in the gallery told me it was the most entertaining golf he had ever seen. This is the 4th year at PGA National with Mark Wilson winning in 2007, Ernie Els in 2008 and Y.E. Yang winning his first PGA TOUR event right here last year. The 38-year old South Korean then went on to tame the Tiger and win the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. The Champion Course here at PGA National is a rather long par-70 at 7,241 yards. It was designed and built by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio in 1981. For amateurs it is a par-72. The pros play two par-5 holes- the 479 yard 6th and the  508 yard 10th as par-4s. The most famous holes comprise "The Bear Trap"- the 179 yard par-3 15th, the 434 yard par-4 16th and the 190 yard par-3 17th. This golf tournament is all about conditions- of the golf course and the weather. The Florida wind has been blowing hard all week and changed direction  just as the tournament started. Vijay Singh commented that it was a new golf course come Thursday different from the one he played in practice rounds. The sun has been shining with temperatures in the mid 60s. Rain early in the week has softened the greens making for approach shots that hold nicely but also greens that get a little bumpy later in the day. The sun and the wind will continue to dry out these greens and make the course very difficult on the weekend. On Thursday I followed Y.E. Yang, Mark Wilson and Stephen Ames. Yang got off to a horrendous start with an early 9 on his second hole the 450 yard par-4 11th. He hit his approach shot fat and into the water guarding the front of the green and was wet again on his second attempt. He followed his opening 79 with a respectable 70 though he missed the cut by 6 strokes. Mark Wilson started the tournament with three consecutive bogeys. He made two consecutive birdies on his back nine holing a 20-foot putt for deuce and holing a bunker shot on the difficult 6th hole. Wilson followed his opening 73 with a 70 which included an eagle at the par-5 3rd hole. He made the cut by one stroke and is back in the pack at T44 position. Stephen Ames matched Wilson's 73 on Thursday though he got his game going late in the round with two birdies on the last 5 holes. He carried that winning feeling over into Friday with a bogey free 6-under par 64. Ames stands at T12 position. Probably the coolest thing I saw on Thursday was Sergio Garcia's play on the 226-yard par-3 7th hole. It was dead into the wind with a back hole location. He turned down his club and hit the lowest shot I have ever seen- never more than 5 feet off the ground. It seemed to go through the fountain in the pond midway to the green. He masterfully ran it up through the gap between the front bunkers. Though it rolled through the green he got it up and down for a par. Friday in the second round I followed the first round leader Nathan Green, Vijay Singh and a struggling Padraig Harrington. The Aussie Green who felt a little beneath the guys he was playing with who happen to have three majors apiece rose to the occasion with a 66 and a share of the lead on Thursday. Yesterday though after a birdie on No. 3 he started making par after par which isn't all that bad at PGA National. Though when you walk that par tight rope for so long it is only a matter of time until you fall off.. He made a nice 12-footer on No. 10 to save par but ended the par streak when he finally missed a 12-footer on No. 16. His even par round of 70 still keeps him in the mix for the weekend at T5 position. Harrington had only one birdie to go with two bogeys in each of his first two rounds. His pair of 71s has him in T47 position. He did rally to make the cut almost holing his 5-iron on No. 15 and then making the tester coming back for deuce. Harrington just could not putt all day long missing three other birdie attempts inside 10 feet including a 4-footer at the 18th. Ten shots back going into the weekend who knows what can happen to an Irishman a few days shy of St. Patrick's Day? Vijay couldn't putt either but his iron shots were so good that he ended up just kicking the ball in the hole. The 47-year old player now religiously utilizes reads from his caddie and pats down ball marks in his line without consulting other players. I thought for sure Paddy Harington was going to say something to him about that. Singh played the best of the three some and was by far the most exciting to watch. After 3-putting Nos. 5 and 6 he made 6 birdies in the last 12 holes to shoot a 66. Along with Thursday's 67 he stands alone in third place. The most exciting thing I saw on Friday was Vijay missing a 4-footer for birdie on No. 16 and then making a bomb of 65 feet for deuce on the very next hole. C'est la vie when the score is good who cares how and when they go in? The cut came at plus three with 74 players of the 144 player field advancing to the weekend. PGA National is holding its own with a cumulative scoring average of 71.7- almost two strokes over par. Two young guns Camillo Villegas and Anthony Kim top the leader board and go off in the final twosome of the day at 1:40 p.m. Like Vijay Singh they both had multiple wins in 2008 yet went winless last year and so far this year. Villegas is knocking the hardest on the door with two Top 10s in both his starts this year- a T8 finish in Phoenix though he shot a pair of 71s on the weekend after leading the tournament after the first two rounds. He finished in 3rd place at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. Kim leads the field with the most birdies- 13 of them. Remember his second round at the Masters last year where he set a new record with 11 birdies? Maybe we will see another burst of birdies out of the AK gun over the weekend? I am always looking for new material for my exclusive series called "Corporate Leadership Inspired by The Game of Golf" and I found some already here this week here at the Honda Classic. Graeme McDowell trying to hit his ball from the water hazard on No. 18 touched the water with his club and immediately called the matter to the attention of rules officials. After reviewing the video he assessed himself a two-stroke penalty. Imagine if everyone in the plant or office conducted themselves in such a manner? More inspiration can be found with Ernie Els who I saw win here two years ago and then a week later the Big Easy make an uneasy announcement that his son Ben was diagnosed with autism. Els and his wife Liezl founded the Els Autism Foundation in 2009 and are seeking $30 million to build the Els Center for Excellence which will conduct research and provide education and therapy for autistic children. Els will be honored by the Golf Writers Association of America at the Masters for his unselfish contributions to the betterment of society. Imagine if everyone in the plant or office were as much of a team player willing to give back freely for the team as Ernie Els does? "Corporate Leadership Inspired by The Game of Golf"- don’t we all need that? Well my golfing friends this is Andy Reistetter live from the Honda Classic- thanks for joining me and have a great weekend.   Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net